Written by Joshua Feblowitz
One hundred years ago, a British scientist by the name of Leonard Noon attempted to treat hay fever by injecting patients with of small amounts of grass pollen. Inspired by successful vaccines for diseases like smallpox, Noon hoped to cure patients of their allergy by helping them build up an “active immunity” to the pollen.
In his laboratory at St. Mary’s Hospital in London, Noon carefully prepared “pollen extracts” to test his theory. To study patients’ reactions to pollen, he sprinkled the extract directly into their eyes – undoubtedly a very unpleasant experience, as anyone with seasonal allergies can imagine. Finally, he injected patients with the extract over several weeks in increasing amounts, successfully reducing their sensitivity to the pollen.
Noon’s 1911 study represents the first successful example of allergen immunotherapy, a treatment that involves gradually exposing an allergic person to an allergen to coax their immune system into tolerating the substance. Although Noon never uses the word “allergy” in his original paper – at the time the term was just 4 years old—his discovery marked the beginning of a new era for allergy research and treatment. Today, allergen immunotherapy continues to be employed by innovative researchers around the world, including right here at Children’s Hospital Boston. …
Brett Nasuti is Children’s first patient to go through a new trial that could cure him of his severe food allergy. In this final video on our series, Brett finds out if he passes the final milk challenge in the study—which culminates in him drinking a full 8-ounce glass of milk—and if he’s cured. If he passes the challenge, there’s an enormous pizza party in store for him.
In this second video in our Milk Allergy series, Children’s Allergy Program’s Director, Lynda Schneider, MD, discusses her groundbreaking study to teach severely allergic patients, like Brett Nasuti, featured in our video last week, to tolerate milk. Much like environmental allergy shots, patients get exposed to tiny amounts of the allergen—in this case, by drinking cow’s milk—so their immune systems become desensitized and don’t react to it. Until recently, the only treatment for allergies has consisted of avoiding the food and managing reactions when they occur. This exposure desensitization trial—the first of its kind in the country—represents a bold new way of thinking about food allergies.
Check back next week to see Brett take his first-ever sip of milk.
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